EGMT 1510: Cultures of Play - Listening, Collaborating, Improvising

It can be unnerving to make something from what seems like nothing. But we all improvise when we play, so what is it that you draw upon? Is playing fun because it offers an avenue to re-imagine yourself, to get to know other people, even to form communities? These are some questions we delve into during this course. We will attend to practices from several places in the world, both nearby and distant, ranging from kids' clapping games to song styles from the African rain forest. We'll explore proportions of freedom versus constraint, preparation versus spontaneity, and individuality within a collective, considering how these dynamic balances inform our sense of taste -- that is when and why an expression, experience, or style just feels "right" or doesn't. Working with live materials (rhythms, speech, gestures, melodies, beats, fragments of text or conversation, memories, dreams, jokes) we’ll develop a grab bag of shared practices/skills. Our active responses to reading, research, and poetic invocations about play and improvisation will take the form of "reading collages" (drawn from weekly reading assignments and spoken aloud), along with brief writing activities. We will pay attention to our poetic sensibilities -- noticing moments of affect and micro-politics in our everyday lives.  As the course progresses, we will test out a variety of mini-projects in groups that range in size, devising brief ‘happenings’ in class and around grounds. We end the term with an all-class flash mob or related event that we design and enact together. The details of any of these endeavors will depend on: 1) who is in the class and how we combine to create a shared aesthetic 2) our immediate circumstances moment to moment and our responses to local, national, or global events, and 3) the directions we decide to take along the way. Students should expect to step out of their comfort zones, to be challenged to think independently, and to engage in lively and open debate.